C'est Chic


Atlantic, 1978


REVIEW BY: Michael R. Smith


The quintet known as Chic broke through into the mainstream in a big way with 1978’s C’est Chic. Group leaders Nile Rodgers (guitar) and Bernard Edwards (bass) put in double-time as producers for the length of their tenure with Chic, which pretty much lasted as long as disco did. On this, their sophomore effort (which is anything but sophomoric), they proved that they were at the top of their game. From this point on, they would be in high demand among other artists as the producers du jour.

The opening cut, “Chic Cheer,” should have been left on the cutting room floor. It is a lame instrumental piece marred by canned applause and repetitive whistling. As if “Le Freak” needed an introduction! Back in the winter of 1978/79, “Le Freak” was HUGE in my neighborhood of Hyannis, Massachusetts. It was played on heavy rotation at the local ice skating rink, and at the time, I couldn’t quite figure out what all the fuss was about. But now I understand. It’s got a propulsive bass line, catchy lyrics and impossibly polished production. At the time, it was only the second pop song I had ever heard and I had nothing but the Beatles’ “Yellow Submarine” to compare it to. So much for my humble beginnings as a future music critic, right?my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

The second single, “I Want Your Love” is equally as dynamic as “Le Freak.” Nile really shows off his guitar work here. And those female voices of Alfa Anderson, Diva Gray, and Luci Martin are as heavenly as those church bells chiming in the background. Drummer Tony Thompson of Power Station fame provides the solid backbeat and their string section is such a standout that they have dubbed it the Chic Strings. All of it adds up to what is undeniably one of the best albums the late ‘70s had to offer.

The slow-burn ballads “Savoir Faire” and “At Last I Am Free” help to balance things out, especially with the two hits whipping us all into such a disco frenzy. They provide the perfect cool down and take the album to a higher level, if that is even possible. The lesser-known tracks “Happy Man” and “Sometime You Win” hold their own and keep the album bouncing and strutting along nicely. The line “Take a little chance, don’t mean nothin,’ sometimes you win, sometimes you lose” could be the Chic motto, though for them taking such daring chances were truly groundbreaking and really paid off.

After six more less successful albums (including an ill-advised reunion in 1992), Chic would experience the shock of what it’s like to suddenly -- and without warning -- go out of style. When Bernard Edwards passed away in 1996 from pneumonia, Nile soldiered on as the face and spokesman for Chic, an influential band that forever changed the playing field for other black artists that soon followed in their wake.

Rating: A-

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© 2009 Michael R. Smith and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Atlantic, and is used for informational purposes only.